Redundancy: is my employer breaking the law?

Facing redundancy is a time of stress and anxiety for most people. There are government guidelines that employers must follow to make sure that redundancies are fair and genuine.

If you’re at risk of being laid off, make sure you know your rights and whether your employer is acting lawfully.

How should I be informed I’m being made redundant?

Employers should always inform you directly when you are selected for redundancy, and if possible, discuss alternatives for other jobs in the organisation. If you think the redundancy isn’t genuine and your employer didn’t follow a fair process, you can appeal. Always check your employment contract if possible on your organisation’s redundancy polices.

What is a genuine redundancy?

A redundancy is genuine when at least one of the following applies:

  • there is a real business reason
  • the employer doesn’t need you or your skills anymore
  • the workplace is closing
  • the employer is going out of business or there is less demand for services
  • your work is being done by other people after reorganisation
  • the business has moved to another location and you cannot relocate
  • the business is taken over by another company
  • the employer is a sole owner and they die
  • the introduction of new technology means fewer people are required

It may not be genuine if:

  • the employer takes on new people to do your role
  • you had a bad relationship with the employer or colleague
  • you are being singled out from other people
  • discrimination is playing a part

A full list of reasons for unfair selection can be found on the Government’s website.

How do I know if I’m being discriminated against?

If you suspect that the main reason you are being made redundant is because of one of the following protected characteristics, then you could be being discriminated against:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage or civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation


What to do if you think your redundancy is unfair?

 If you think your redundancy is for reasons that aren’t genuine, there are several routes you can take:

  • speak to your employer or human resources (HR) department and ask if reconsideration is possible via an appeal, which must be in writing
  • contact your trade union representative for support
  • contact Citizens Advice or ACAS for impartial advice

If you wish to appeal with your employer, there is a time limit if legal action needs to be taken. Early conciliation will need to start within three months, minus a day of the date at the end of your contact.

If you have a genuine concern, ACAS is a free service and may be able to offer conciliation, acting as a go between for you and your employer. An early conciliation certificate from ACAS is needed before you can make a tribunal claim.

You don’t have to pay fees to make an employment tribunal claim.

What other information and support is available?

Our 15 frequently ask questions about redundancy article covers in detail what your rights are and what treatment you should expect from your employer.

If you’re struggling to deal emotionally with being made redundant, our article on the five stages of redundancy grief explores some of the emotions you might be feeling and gives some tips with dealing with them.

If you feel like you need extra support, don’t be afraid to reach out. Find support for your mental health.

If you’ve been made redundant and would like further support, check if you’re eligible for employment support from Work Well.